Shonka Dukureh, the actress who played Big Mama Thornton on ‘Elvis,’ has died at 44

Shonka Dukureh, an actress and musician who portrayed R&B singer Willie Mae “Big Mama” Thornton in this year’s Elvis biopic, has died at the age of 44.

Dukureh was found dead by police on Thursday (July 21) in her home in Nashville, after one of her two young children found her unresponsive and sought help from a neighbour, who called 911. According to police, there is no evidence of foul play. No cause of death has been disclosed, and autopsy results from the medical examiner are still pending.

Elvis, director Baz Luhrmann’s biopic about Elvis Presley which arrived in theatres in June, marked Dukureh’s first major film role. She played Thornton, the first artist to be recorded. ‘Hound Dog’The song had a hit in 1952, a few years prior to Presley’s.

Dukureh was not only in the film but also appeared in the accompanying music video to Doja Cat‘s song from the Elvis soundtrack, ‘Vegas’, which interpolates a sample of Thornton’s ‘Hound Dog’ recording. Dukureh also appeared onstage with Doja Cat during the rapper’s set at Coachella in April of this year, performing the song together. Dukureh’s recording of ‘Hound Dog’The soundtrack featured them. Elvis.

Dukureh was born in Nashville and graduated from Fisk University with her theatre degree and Trevecca Nazarene, with an education degree. Neben ihrem acting and music career, Dukureh was also an actress and teacher.

Baz Luhrmann, Dukureh’s director, stated that she was asked to sing vocals by Dave Cobb while recording the album in Nashville. “Her performance was so great she seemed the perfect person to play the all-important role of Willie Mae ‘Big Mama’ Thornton in Elvis,”Luhrmann spoke.

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